Fertilizers Are Destroying our Soil and Water. Is There a Better Way?

‘€œWe’€™re made in the image of our soil.’€ ‘€“ Jerry Cunningham, Founder, Coyote Creek Mill, speaking at the Slow Money Conference on April 29, in Boulder, Colo.

If it’€™s true that we’€™re made in the image of our soil, we’€™re in trouble. Modern industrial farming is stripping our soil of nutrients, destroying critical soil microbes, turning huge swaths of land into deserts, and saturating our farmlands with toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that – surprise! -end up in our rivers, lakes, oceans… and eventually in our kitchen faucets and foods…

The Earth’s soil is now being depleted of nutrients at more than 13 percent the rate those nutrients can be replaced. We may also be facing looming shortages of two elements critical for soil health: phosphorous and potassium. According to Jeremy Grantham, cofounder and chief strategist for the Boston firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo:

These two elements cannot be made, cannot be substituted, are necessary to grow all life forms, and are mined and depleted. It’€™s a scary set of statements. . . .What happens when these fertilizers run out is a question I can’€™t get satisfactorily answered and, believe me, I have tried. There seems to be only one conclusion: their use must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve.

How do we drastically reduce the mining of phosphorous and potassium for chemical fertilizers, and at the same time preserve our soil and protect our drinking water? Two words: Organic farming.

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